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'At this rate, we will be just Mount, no Forest'

Mount Forest residents rally against proposed tree removal connected to two capital projects

MOUNT FOREST ‒ Several residents are concerned the tree removals proposed for two upcoming capital projects will take the 'forest' out of Mount Forest.

Presented by senior project manager Tammy Stevenson during a capital project information meeting Tuesday evening, approximately 40 residents shared concerns about the 45 trees to be removed, facilitating above and underground utility upgrades, as well as sidewalk expansions during the John and Fergus Street reconstructions.

"Trees are expected to be impacted...and some trees will likely need to be removed," said Stevenson. "At the completion of the project, residents (will be) left with a clean street, improvement to property frontage and improved road function."

But while staff attempted to limit the question period to 10 minutes, residents spoke for almost an hour – taking turns sharing their concerns about tree removals, property values, and Tim Hortons-related traffic. 

"Right now I have cars parked in front of my property- if you take those trees down that's the only buffer I have between me and the cars," said Kim Flaherty, who attended the information session. "You take those trees down, I might as well be living in a parking lot." 

Another resident, Grazyna Modzynski, said she was "mortified" when she heard how many trees were slated for removal.

"At this rate, we will be just Mount no Forest," said Modzynski. "It took (most of these trees) over 100 years to become what they are... there is no need to sacrifice the healthy, large trees that give us quality air, protection from the elements, and most of all beauty just for this construction."

Daphne Rappard, the head of the Mount Forest Green Team, an organization dedicated to reducing the loss of local trees, said the group is currently working on an inventory of all the municipal trees in town in an effort to create bylaws protecting and improving Mount Forest's existing tree canopy. 

"Yes sidewalks and infrastructure have to be done but we have a responsibility to the environment and our future," said Rappard, whose delegation was met with applause. "Obviously you can't save every tree and you have to prioritize but we are supposed to be addressing climate change and we're failing miserably for a town called Mount Forest." 

One of several people representing the Mount Forest Green Team, Manuela De Medeiros, a former member of the city of Toronto's forestry team, suggested the township consider consulting an arborist or use alternative methods like torpedo tunnelling or soil cells.

According to Stevenson, the township will offer replanting opportunities for any residents affected by the proposed tree removal unless overhead or underground facilities don't allow for a new tree at that location. 

But Rappard said of the 50 municipal trees removed in 2021, only seven were replaced. 

"I don't like to see the trees come down, I'm sorry to lose even one but I can understand that some of them are going," said Coun. Penny Renken, who attended the meeting along with Coun. Steve McCabe and Coun. Sherry Burke. "I'd love to see everybody come away with what they want but I don't think that's going to happen." 

Construction timing is currently unknown, as is the total cost. 

Feedback will be received until Nov. 10.

Isabel Buckmaster is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for GuelphToday. LJI is a federally-funded program.

About the Author: Isabel Buckmaster, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Isabel Buckmaster covers Wellington County under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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